How do I make the international returns process easier to manage?

Returns are, of course, inevitable in the retail sector, and this is especially true when you consider the number of shoppers who are increasingly buying online. With greater numbers of UK retailers fuelling their growth with the launch of international websites, making sure your returns process doesn’t accrue the business any additional and unnecessary costs is crucial.

To deliver a manageable returns process, one option is to first conduct an audit of your website to identify how easy it is for international customers to make informed decisions about their purchases.

This, says DHL Express director of industry sales Susan Perry Whitehead, will help reduce the number of orders from customers who ‘buy to try’. Retailers can create local versions of their website to make sure international customers can access accurate product descriptions including dimensions and sizing charts, as well as multiple, interactive and moving images. “Enhancing information at point of purchase can make a profound difference to your returns process,” says Perry Whitehead. 

When a return is necessary, retailers should look to automate the process as much as possible and provide consumers with access to online facilities for filling out and submitting returns forms.

This will make the operation far less time-consuming for both the retailer and the consumer. “Online automated systems will also make your returns process universal, allowing you to simply replicate your domestic returns operation for international sales, thus making the process manageable,” she says.

For those who choose to outsource their logistics operations to a third-party logistics provider with a global reach, the resultant hubs across the globe means that returns requests can be responded to instantly, and items sent promptly to the retailer in the UK for re-sale. This could also limit any complications the retailer may experience in trying to grapple with shipping taxes and customs regulation – both of which could add unnecessary time and cost to the operation if not correctly handled.